Trailblazing Queen: Anna Kennedy, KENNEDY, Marketing + PR

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Interview by Rebecca Rusinovic

Hi Anna! We are delighted to unveil you as the latest YQ Trailblazer and are so eager to share your experience, insight and magic with the Yes Queen tribe…

 

Congratulations are in order as you recently launched your Marketing and PR consulting agency KENNEDY - what a glow getter! What was the catalyst to this new and exciting venture?

THANK YOU Queens! It wasn’t a hard decision to be honest. I have always been a true believer that everything happens for a reason and when I was made redundant earlier this year from what I thought was going to be my dream job, it just felt like the stars aligned and this was the perfect time for me to go solo. With an amazing partner in my corner and friends as my cheerleaders, I took the plunge and launched KENNEDY Marketing + PR.

You are always spreading positive and uplifting messages on your socials. Would you say that taking the leap to start your own business is connected to a personal breakthrough for you, such as letting go of your fears or doubts?

Definitely. I think a lot of people see me as very confident figure and I try to be but there can sometimes be a little self doubt inside. Having been through a few downs in my life I try to spread a little positivity to those who might be going through the same experiences.

Having so many people believe in me helped me just get on with it. Age and maturity plays a big part. I don’t think I would have been able to do this 10 years ago. I am in a better place mentally and emotionally to be able to handle the rejection and uncertainty that sometimes comes with working for yourself. 

With over 18 years in PR and Marketing, what lessons or experiences will you take into your own business and what will you leave behind or change?

As a creative it is so hard when someone doesn’t agree with you or see the same vision that you do. So I am working on backing myself and my experience to persuade clients to believe in the strategy I am recommending, or at least give it a try. In my experience convincing the powers that be to give something different a try can be difficult.

I think too many people act one way in front of clients or colleagues and leave their true selves at home. If you want to attract great people to work with, you have to bring your whole self and if they don't like it, then they aren’t the people for you. It goes both ways, if you see behaviour or attitudes in colleagues or clients that don’t align with yours, you don’t have to work with them.

Biggest lesson - it is best to not take it personally. If a client doesn’t like a concept, it’s okay. I am going to thank my former colleague and friend Niki Sarantopolous for that one - shout out to you Niki you legend.

 

As a PR and marketing expert, give us an insight into the role social media really plays into the success of a business. Why is it more crucial than ever to be active in this space?

Social media was a platform that was created for interacting and connecting with others. It wasn’t until brands realised the opportunity it presented to reach an audience of potential customers or clients for free, that it really exploded into a platform for advertising purposes. Social media is vital for any business strategy for these reasons:

1.     Brand awareness — being visible is super important.

2.     Reaching very large, tailored audiences in a very simple and effective way on a global scale.

3.     Grouping your community into one easily accessible platform.

Keep in mind: social media needs to be planned, implemented and nurtured properly for there to be any real benefit to any business.

I worked with a B2B client this year and my first task for them was to build their profile on LinkedIn — a platform that is very under utilised. They went from approximately 300 to 3000 followers in the space of a month just by posting articles, commenting on other users’ content and interacting with the right people in their industry that would get them noticed. 

It’s all about telling a good story. Brands need to stop trying to sell something. If you have a great story to tell and most importantly are authentic, you will attract the right community to your brand. Use your insta stories to show a little behind the velvet curtain. Consumers want to interact with their favourite brands in a way that makes them feel connected. Don’t be afraid to post a grainy video of you working hard to put together the brand they love. This is how you build an authentic and engaged community.

It is important to remember that while social media is an incredibly remarkable yet enigmatic tool — not everything that you see is reality. What do you think sets apart the influencers who are authentic to the ones that post a life that feels ‘forced’? And why is it important for a business to ensure they are aligning with the right person and ultimately their following?

Businesses need to remember that influencers are a business too — they won’t always have your best interests at heart. You need to work with people who actually like you and your product. Ask them if they have a connection to the brand. Have they actually used it or worn it? You need to have a really good look at their platforms. What other brands have they worked with and if their values align with yours.

Watch their stories. Are they real and raw? Do they make you feel something and want to experience or buy whatever it is they are showing you? These are the true influencers.

Once you’ve found the right fit for your brand, try to meet them, talk to them and get a sense of who they really are before signing on that dotted line. They may be able to fake it in a good photo but you can’t fake realness face to face.

 

Anyone and everyone can now develop a personal brand for themselves online. How has social media changed the way your industry works and how have you personally had to adapt and learn?

Most of the world walk around with a shopping centre, restaurant reviewer and business insights machine in their back pocket. Social media has seen the consumer get REALLY savvy, really quick. As a marketer, I need to help break down how businesses can tap into the power of digital resources to attract the right consumers to their brand/business. I need to be smart, unique and authentic with how we use this data to communicate with their target markets.

I do have the experience and training to run your marketing strategy end-to-end. I don’t have thousands of followers but my work isn’t about me. I don’t believe I need to have a massive following on social media to be a great marketer. My job is to grow your following and assist that path to purchase, so I put all my energy into that.

The world of PR and marketing is dynamic and ever evolving. What are the key skills needed to succeed in this industry that a degree or textbook can’t teach you?

You need to have drive. If you don't have that fire in your belly to get up every day and give it all you have, you won't succeed. You have to constantly prove yourself. This is an industry where a lot of people think they can do it themselves and they won't be afraid to say that to your face. You need to be constantly reading articles, upskilling yourself in data analytics and know who is the next person of true influence. You need to be ahead of the pack. If you aren’t willing to go above and beyond and work in those hours outside the 9-5, this industry isn’t for you.

“Be brave. Be creative. Be outspoken, but most importantly be yourself.”

PR and Marketing is often encapsulated in this idealised and glamorised fashion, yet it also has a reputation for being a very competitive industry. Have you experienced or witnessed any kind of covert bullying, catty or mean spirited behaviour? Is that kind of behaviour talked about openly and if not, why do you think that is?

I’ve had some very different experiences with bullying in the workplace. I actually quit on the spot once when I had the director of a PR agency pointing in my face telling me not to cry.

Because PR and marketing is a particularly female dominated industry, it can create some very bitchy environments. I don’t think it is spoken about because this industry is small and everyone knows everyone, and most female PR professionals want to get ahead regardless of what they have to put up with.

However, I think times are changing. Fortunately there are a lot of new agencies popping up, run by young vibrant PR professionals who are breaking the cycle of intimidation and competition.

 

 2019 is the year of the fearless Yes Queen. What does the word mean to you personally and would you define yourself as fearless?

For me, being a fearless Yes Queen means being completely and unapologetically your true fabulous self. It excites me to see that this has become something to celebrate. I have gone through 37 years feeling a little out of the norm and not being celebrated for that. I am fearless because I am unafraid to speak my truth regardless of how that might make me appear to some people. I call out bullies in life and in the workplace when I see them. I am not afraid to call out negative behaviour. I am fearless regardless of what the outcome might be.

Who is someone that embodies a sense of fearlessness to you? How do they do it and why does it inspire you?

I have a few women in my life and some I watch from abroad who I completely admire.  Tamara Mellon is someone who embodies a true fearless woman. She recently posted about the abortion bans on her social networks and had women berating her and telling her she’s lost customers because she is pro-choice and you know what she did? She reposted their comments (no names showing of course) and said to her followers - “I don't care if I lose customers I have to stay true to my values and for every donation you make to plan parenthood I will match it.” In this time we need to have more women willing to not be afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

One very close to me is my big sister. When she found out her two year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of gynecological cancer, she became this absolute queen. She handled the whole situation with grace and power and laughter and wine and she never made her daughter feel like she was different. I was in awe and I was so proud of her.

Now that you are your own boss you have control of your own hours, deadlines and expectations. What about this excites you or intimidates you?

The endless possibilities! I don't know who I am going to be working with next and I am so excited about that. I am still working through client’s expectations of what marketing truly looks like and feels like for them and it can take time to build that trust when you don't work in an office with them everyday. I love creating my own rules. If I want to work at 5am or 10pm cause that’s when I feel my most creative then I do it.

Truth bomb: I get imposter syndrome on the daily. Like, “I don’t have thousands of followers, who am I?” Then I sit in a meeting with a client and just nail it and I stop and say to myself, “Anna, you are really good at what you do and you love it.” I have great creative networks and have worked with some of Australia's best makeup artists and stylists and photographers, and I know in this industry, that’s what should truly matter. 

What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you that you could share with our tribe?

Ok it’s more than one but……leave your ego at the door. Don’t take life so seriously. You only have one shot at this. Be kind to yourself and those around you, be generous with your time and love and bring all yourself to what you do every day. Don’t hide behind a mask, because you will be caught out in the end. Not everyone is your best friend and will have your back. But that’s okay, you don't need the world you just need yourself and maybe a good bottle of gin.

 

Thank you Anna for your glow getter vibe and inspiration- to get in touch with Anna for PR and Marketing Consultancy head to https://www.kennedymarketingpr.com/

Sarah Fritz